Stop Them Before It's Too Late

The authorities, who seemingly have the power and authority to execute the disengagement plan, are passing this hot potato from one to the other, looking for ways to cover their asses in case the entire move ends in failure.

The chief of staff believes that it's the job of the police and not the army to deal with the evacuation of the settlers from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank, but he declares he will do the job if so assigned. The police command believes it does not have the necessary means to fulfill the mission, but it announces nothing will deter it from meeting expectations. Lawyers in the civil service complain that the courts are extremely permissive toward settlers accused of breaking the law in their clashes with the army.

In a word, the authorities, who seemingly have the power and authority to execute the disengagement plan, are passing this hot potato from one to the other, already looking for ways to cover their asses in case the entire move ends in failure.

The challenge is indeed complicated to the point of being nearly impossible under the current circumstances. The settlers announce their plans to flood the area designated for evacuation with tens of thousands of people. Those reinforcements are not meant to play the role of an audience in the bleachers watching the clash with the emissaries of the rule of law, but are meant to take an active part in the resistance operation. The heads of the Yesha Council, their salaries and activities paid by the state, are openly organizing the rebellion and calling on the public to join. Among them are those who do not hesitate to preach mutiny in the army and for the use of violence to foil the government and Knesset decision.

In the dust of battle being kicked up by the settlers, attention is diverted to the call for mutiny while the main significance of their efforts is forgotten: to torpedo the decision made by the elected institutions to which the public gave the authority to run its affairs. After all, even without a mutiny, preventing the government from executing the disengagement plan means the collapse of the institutions of government and the disintegration of the common denominator that enables Israeli democracy to function.

To improve the chances of the disengagement actually taking place, a change in the public atmosphere is required. Nowadays, the legitimate arena for a clash over the logic and correctness of the initiative has been entirely taken over by the opponents. In the public discourse, the only voices being heard are those of the Yesha Council, the rabbis who prefer "Torah thought" over state orders, and announcements by right-wing activists about signing up soldiers volunteering to refuse orders.

The silent majority, if the public opinion polls are to be believed (as they consistently show a significant majority favoring the withdrawal), is silent, and so is the leadership of the country. That is to be expected. Naturally, the minority that feels harmed is the one that wakens to action and is ready to take extreme action to achieve its goals, while the majority feels confident of its situation and doesn't see any reason to break out of its serenity.

Most of the public has yet to internalize the danger entailed in the campaign of opposition to the disengagement plan, and is not correctly assessing the possibility that the plan could fail, with all the terrible consequences that would mean. To awaken the majority from its apathy, leadership is required, and that is the role of the government and its head.

The executive arms of the state - IDF, police, prosecution - need the embrace of the political echelon to take decisive energetic action against the settler rebellion. They must be able to act in an environment that gives them unequivocal backing, and encourages them to fulfill their duty.

The way the authorities of the state are meanwhile deployed to deal with the rebellion is not providing the necessary basis for action: There is no sense of threat to the cornerstones of Israeli democracy, there is no sense of emergency, there is no expression of concern about the state's very ability to continue to be run according to the rules of democracy. And that is the situation as it really is: A small, zealous minority, full of a sense of injustice done to it, has lost its faith in the institutions of the state and the democratic process, and is enlisting its forces to defy those institutions and to impose its will on the majority.